Proverbs 27:23-24 “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.
Acts 20:28 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
King Solomon the wisest and richest King that ever lived on Earth, understood the importance of good stewardship and security. Flocks of sheep and herds of goats were major sources of provision in ancient Israel. When well tended, the livestock would provide clothing, milk, food, and income for the entire family. The proverbs call for diligence not fear, to be a good steward of what God has entrusted to us. Knowing that we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
What we have for now maybe gone tomorrow like our house, job, money or business. This proverbs reminded us to be very vigilant and do our reasonable best in providing for the future. God calls us to apply ourselves diligently and carefully in work and business matters.
The apostle Paul, who was often concerned about the condition of his flock, seemed to have Proverbs 27:23 in mind when he spoke to elders of the Ephesian church: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
Shepherds -Sheep Responsibility
The Shepherds – Pastor called by God to care for the sheep of the congregation. He has three responsibilities in his calling.
1. To do God’s work – He is responsible for preaching and teaching God’s word, caring, admonishing and counseling. He must have a servant’s heart ready to pour out his life for the sake of the Gospel. (1 Thessalonians 2:9) be willing to lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:11).
2. Oversee – to lead and direct the ministries in the way he sees will best accomplish the mission of the church. This does not mean he can do whatever he wants or fulfill his every preference. But the pastors and elders stand in the place of the Good Shepherd ( JESUS) and must act as faithful representatives. The authority of the pastor is not self-proclaimed. He only has the authority to lead as the Word of God directs. 1 Peter 5: 2-3 “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
3. Admonish – to give instructions for the purpose of correcting, training, warning and exhorting to obey the Lord.
Sheep –or congregation, also have responsibilities in the church designed by God. They are called by God to relate to their pastors and elders in a particular manner that would bring honor to the Lord.
1. Respect their leaders – Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17
The world teaches us respect must be earned first, No! That is contrary to what the Bible says whether people deserved it or not , everybody deserve respect regardless of their status or age. “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:7
Respect should extend to attitudes and words spoken. It is common for people to be unkind, critical, or indifferent toward their pastors. This is not honoring to the Lord. Pastor Jerry Sturgeons house rule “ No matter what happens, NO to slandering God’s servants!
2. Esteem – “esteem them highly in love because of their work.”1 Thessalonians 5:13. The congregation must have a loving attitude toward all their pastors. This might mean overlooking some of your pastors’ shortcomings (not sins). Pastors are not perfect and are also on the journey of sanctification, just like the congregation.
3. Submit and Be at Peace: The third responsibility of the congregation is to submit to and be at peace with church leaders. Being peaceable with your leaders means that the congregation is quick to eliminate conflict, strife, and discord and promote harmony so that the church can be effective in fulfilling its mission. We need to understand everyone’s role. God designed the church to act as the body of Christ, and bodies have more than one part. “Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others.” (1 Peter 4:10) “A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial.” (1 Corinthians 12:7)
In the original Hebrew, the word for “know” in Proverbs 27:23 means “to have knowledge experientially; to know about someone or something through observation or the senses.” A literal translation of the verse would be “look into the faces of your flock.”
Back in the year 2019, ICA Pastors and Leaders attended the International Church Conferences at the World Trade Center. Pastor John instructed us to register our name in classes that we choose to attend. I chose and attended two different classes first, Leadership for the Church and the speaker taught us becoming a leader requires blend of intelligence namely:
IQ – Intelligence Quotient, a measure of your ability to reason and solve problems.
CQ – Cultural Quotient – the ability to relate and work effectively across cultures,
EQ – Emotional Quotient– Emotional Intelligence -the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict.
Then the second class I attended, was How to lead effectively in the Church? The speaker opening statement, is Church is not the building, but us! Which is true just like the Scripture says “That our bodies is the temple of God “1 Corinthians 6:19 but what caught my attention the most is his next statements “Church is also about Shepherds and sheep, and there are two types of unhealthy church. The Shepherd eats sheep, meaning taking advantage of the sheep vulnerability through abuse of power/authority like what happened in the story of David, Uriah the Hittite and his wife Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 12. The other is sheep eating the Shepherds meaning criticizing and dishonoring the Shepherd.
In Ezekiel chapter 34, we can read about those shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves and not the flock, also about the fat sheep and lean sheep, strong sheep who bullied weak sheep, verse 21 “ butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away,”
Unhealthy churches can not only be stressful and unpleasant, but worst of all they dishonor the Lord and give a bad witness to the world.
The Conditions of the flock
– conglomerate of individuals complete with their own temperaments, their own personalities, their own characters, and lots (and lots!) of individual opinions.
Christians in all levels of their faith, young and mature, strong and weak in faith, some are lukewarm, compromising or carnal Christians and some are still lost and still living in unbelief.
I got saved at the age of 14, baptized in water at 21, baptized in the Holy Spirit at 30, for twenty years been in the ministry not straightforward but crooked road and lots of detours, 10 years now in Pastoral ministry not a smooth journey, but rough, mountain tops of joy and deep valleys of despair, risky and frightening, victory and defeats in the battle. I have a seen a lot but not much, heard a lot of things but not all things. If its not by the grace of God I cannot and shall not stand.
4 Types of Sheep/ People in today’s Church Leaders have to try to Shepherd in as single congregation.
1. Curious Sheep– (Lost sheep) are searching for truth or “answers to life.” They are not followers of Christ but they are willing to hear the Gospel, to learn more about Jesus and His church. People who have not made any profession of faith in Christ. They may be reading and studying the Bible to learn more, or they may just be coming to see and hear. It’s the Shepherd’s job to point and lead them to Christ that they may know the Truth and Life in Christ Jesus. E.g. Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. Shepherds lead this sheep with gentleness, feed only with milk, until they come to a point
where they can be feed with solid foods.
2. Consumer Sheep – always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Timothy 3:7. Hearers of the Word but not doer – James 1:22-24
– Multitudes/ crowds following Jesus because they love to hear his message, miraculous power and the bread. Head full of knowledge of Scriptures but Heart empty of Spirit. — consumed without giving back in return.
They are like locust, when they finish eating, they fly and gone! Some are like grasshoppers, they eat, they stay for a while but once you touch and disturb their comfort zone they jump away from you and hop on to another church.
Shepherds lead this sheep with frustration and desperation, yet still encouraging this sheep to be involve, praying for this sheep to be an active participants in the body of Christ hoping that one day they will no longer consumers of words but producers of good works!
3. Critics Sheep– love to pass judgments, loves to compare, loves to complain too! You can see the speck in your friend’s eye, but you don't notice the log in your own eye. Luke 6:41. This sheep loves to talks, and they have every opinions and bible verse at any given time and moments. They would even try to correct you because, because at the back of their mind they have the “I know better than you attitude/behavior”. Sheep that reached “maturity and age of wisdom” like the Pharisees and Sadducees in Jesus Time who likes to watched Jesus and follow Jesus but only to find fault and mistakes. Like the praying mantis, their eyes have stereo visions, can produce the high resolution
necessary to examine potential prey. His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. Psalm 55:21 In false pretense, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matt. 7:15
People with critical spirits are miserable people. They spew words of misery from a miserable place. Criticism is inevitable! It is either can break a person or make a person better.
There is a massive difference between a critical mind and a critical spirit. The former builds up; the latter tears down. Having a critical mind is a terrific thing. It results in healthy self-reflection, learning, and evaluating the why beneath everything one does. Having a critical spirit is a terrible thing. It results in pushing people away, mistrusting everything and everyone, and constantly looking for things to be broken instead of rejoicing in the good things
the Lord has done and is doing.
– A critical mind is filled with humility; a critical spirit is filled with pride.
– A critical mind is curious and inquisitive, always seeking to understand how the truth can be applied and communicated. A critical spirit is indifferent to people and context.
– A critical mind can unite; a critical spirit only divides.
– A critical mind is expressed with gentleness; a critical spirit with anger.
– A critical mind is content; a critical spirit is bitter.
Pharisees/ Sadducees in the Bible
4. Contributors Sheep – Romans 12:4-8 “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.
Bad contributors – use illustrations, ask 4 persons to volunteer three person be given a pen and paper, to draw something at each others back.
Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to [a]Him: a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
Mark 13 – story of a farmer who sow good seeds in the field, but at night while his hired men asleep, the enemy sowed thistles. Gossipers are like buzzing bee they do contributes for the growth but also contaminants as well.
Part-time contributors – they give their talent but not their treasures (tithes and offering)
– some they give their treasures but not their time to fellowship. workers in the church who are like butterfly – they come and serve in their respective ministries but when their part is over, during the sermon and word exhortation, you will find them loitering outside the hall- like frolicking butterflies
Good contributors – they are like ants who work tirelessly day and night building the kingdom.
So the next time you wonder why your church leaders lead they way they do, especially when your local church is gathered, remember they have the challenge of trying to shepherd different types of people, and there’s nothing simple or easy about that.
We all desire to have a healthy church. An unhealthy church is a black eye to the glory of the Lord and brings shame on the Gospel. We can be sure that Satan desires more than anything to destroy the Church. He will attempt to put animosity between church leaders and the congregation. The responsibilities that God has given both to pastors and the congregation are difficult. Without the power of the Holy Spirit and much prayer, it would be impossible to accomplish our Lord’s directives. We must all be aware of what the Lord expects of each of us and encourage one another for the Lord’s sake. Let us pray that God would continue to keep our church healthy and strong.
Pray for your leaders! Pray for one another!